With EA Sports rolling out a "Fight Night" video simulation featuring Manny Pacquiao against a pound-for-pound great each day this week, we asked a panel of ESPN boxing experts to weigh in on the results. Here's what they had to say:
Manny Pacquiao versus Sugar Ray Robinson
Rafael: Pacquiao is an all-time great, but Robinson is, by wide acclimation, the single greatest fighter in boxing history. Period. He was fast. He could punch with both hands. He had one of the best chins ever (he was stopped only once in 202 professional fights). At one point, Robinson was 128-1-2, with the lone defeat coming by decision to future Hall of Famer Jake LaMotta (whom he would ultimately go 5-1 against). And Robinson fought and beat numerous other Hall of Famers as well. It was only late in his career that he began losing more regularly.
Pacquiao has faced many top fighters, but not the all-time greats that Robinson did -- including LaMotta, Henry Armstrong (viewed by many as the second-best fighter of all time), Kid Gavilan and Carmen Basilio. Match a prime welterweight Robinson with Pacquiao at his best at welterweight, and I have to go with Robinson by a mid-rounds knockout. He just had too much of everything. Pacquiao is great. Robinson was the greatest.
Mulvaney: Seriously? Robinson was the greatest welterweight -- probably the greatest boxer -- who ever lived. Pacquiao, fabulous as he has been, has fought at welterweight or higher just four times in his career; only two dozen of Robinson's 200 fights were below that weight class. This was a man who lost just one of his first 131 contests, and at 147 pounds he was close to fistic perfection.
Too tall, too fast, too strong, too skilled, too slick on his feet. Robinson spears Pacquiao all night long before dropping and stopping him in the middle rounds.
Tessitore: Sugar Ray Robinson would box Manny Pacquiao all night long. He would counterpunch with ease. He'd be able to match speed and would have an edge in size. Manny would fall short and lunge for Sugar Ray, who would pick him off. I like Robinson by unanimous decision.
Kenny: Let's just take Robinson out of the equation. At welterweight, he has no peer -- no, not even Pacqauio.
Pacquiao versus Bernard Hopkins (Thursday)
Pacquiao versus Shane Mosley (Friday)
Manny Pacquiao versus Bernard Hopkins
Rafael: Obviously the size difference between Manny Pacquiao and Bernard Hopkins, a career middleweight and light heavyweigh, is vast. But if you can imagine Hopkins as a welterweight against pound-for-pound king Pacquiao, it's a fascinating fight.
Pacquiao has the speed and power. Hopkins would be the more polished, technical fighter and a guy with perhaps just a tad more ring smarts. Hopkins is at his best when he controls the pace of the fight. For years, Hopkins has fought only in spurts, just long enough to steal rounds away in many cases. His lack of punch output, however, is what cost him the middleweight title against Jermain Taylor and was a big part of his losing the light heavyweight crown to Joe Calzaghe.
Pacquiao, however, is all about pressure, relentlessness and volume punching. If they ever fought, I could see Hopkins boxing and moving and trying to slow down the pace of the fight in the early going and perhaps putting some rounds in the bank. But Pacquiao never slows down. His punch output is ridiculous, as is his speed. I think Pacquiao would simply be busier and flashier with his punches -- and that would resonate with the judges. Hopkins has an all-time great chin, so I don't see Pacquiao taking him out. I'll call it Pacquiao by decision in a fight that Hopkins would try to make tactical while Pacquiao kept the pressure on.
Mulvaney: Hopkins is tall for a middleweight; Pacquiao is small for a welterweight. Pacquiao loves to fight coming forward; Hopkins loves opponents who fight coming forward. Hopkins also has an uncanny ability to hypnotize opponents, slowing them down to his pace and steering them into positions that suit him. Let's be generous and assume this is the older, slower Hopkins who fights for, at most, one minute of every round; even so, Hopkins is just too big and multi-faceted. After starting slowly while he sizes up his opponent and falling behind to Pacquiao's early energy, the canny veteran draws the sting from the Filipino's tail, smothering and neutralizing him and ultimately beating him up over the final two-thirds of the contest to coast to a unanimous decision.
Tessitore: I agree that PacMan would end up on the canvas at some point against Hopkins. A prime Hopkins is too big and too physical for Manny. Pacquiao wouldn't find Hopkins to be as available as other elite fighters he has been in the ring with. Hopkins would really have a field day muscling Manny on the inside and against the ropes. He would win a comfortable, workmanlike decision and deny Manny's fiery rallies.
Kenny: Pacquiao is too small to hurt B-Hop. He loses that fight.
Manny Pacquiao versus Shane Mosley
Rafael: OK, so Pacquiao and Mosley are fighting on May 7 for Pacquiao's welterweight title. This version of Mosley is 39, near the end of his career and coming off two horrible performances. Mosley is a proud fighter who still possesses heart, a great chin and good power (in his one moment of note against Floyd Mayweather Jr., he almost knocked him out in the second round). It is not inconceivable that he can land a punch on Pacquiao, who gets hit quite a bit, the way he did against Mayweather and change the fight. But this version of Mosley is slower and simply can't pull the trigger with authority on his punches.
Now, if we're talking about the prime welterweight Mosley of around 2000, or even the supreme lightweight champion Mosley of the late 1990s -- who had concussive power (eight knockouts in eight defenses) and insane speed (hands and feet) -- it would undoubtedly be a different, and far more competitive, fight. I could see the lightweight version of Mosley or the Mosley who outfought a prime Oscar De La Hoya for the welterweight title in 2000 having a great chance to defeat Pacquiao, be it by knockout or decision. That would be one helluva fight to watch.
Mulvaney: Mosley does a lot of things very, very well. He doesn't do any of them better than Pacquiao -- with the possible exception of carrying greater one-punch power. He has a longer reach, but he fails to utilize it effectively, deploying a jab that is little more than a range-finder and loading up on big right hands. Those right hands loop in from the side instead of coming straight down the middle, where they would be more effective against Pacquiao's high guard. Pacquiao will see them coming, slide to his right, duck under them and unleash his left. It'll be close and exciting for a few rounds until Pacquiao takes over, pounding Mosley down the stretch en route to a unanimous decision.
Tessitore: Pacquaio is faster than this older edition of Shane Mosley. He's viper-like with his quick-striking left cross and right hook. He will land with ease against Mosley. There will be moments when Shane makes Manny think about his ability to mix it up with him, and he could even hurt PacMan with a body shot or uppercut. In the end, I see very few scenarios that include Mosley pulling off the upset. Pacquiao by late TKO.
Kenny: Against Mosley in his prime? I'll say it would be Pacquaio by decision. Unfortunately, Manny isn't even facing a prime Mosley this spring.